As soon as Neal walked unto the campus of Stanton College he was surprised to see the Headmaster Martin there and obviously waiting for him.
"Come with me at once," ordered Martin and he did a turn around and walked back to the administration part of the college which housed his office. Neal had to hurry to catch up, which caused him some pain from his sore backside, and as they walked Neal's memories returned to earlier this morning when he awoke.
Neal had been surprised to find himself still sleeping on his stomach, a location he seldom slept in, but it wasn't until he turned over that he remembered what had happened the night before and he muffled a cry of pain and scurried out of bed.
The first thing he did was to drop his boxers to see what the damage had been and was shocked not to find any blood on the boxers or signs of bleeding on his butt. As much as his butt hurt he was sure that he would find more damage than the stripes left from the strapping. As carefully as he could he walked gingerly into the shower and stayed as long as possible as the cold water washed over his sore butt until it was nearly numb before turning the temperature up so he could complete his shower. He made it to the breakfast table in record time but opted to have his breakfast standing up. The trip to the school had reawakened the pain but he had hoped he could survive the day. The closing of the door behind him alerted Neal that they had reached their destination and he turned to face the headmaster.
Headmaster Martin lost no time into getting to the issue. "Neal, last night your father gave me his word that he would punish you for the break in. Did he?"
Neal nodded, "Yes sir, he gave me a strapping with my grandfather's leather strap."
"I'm ready to see the proof of that strapping. Turn around and drop your jeans and boxers and let me see it for myself," ordered Martin sternly.
Neal only gawked at him and shook his head, "NO!"
"If you don't do as I say, then I can only assume that it was a ploy to get you out of being punished by me, and I will handle it now with my paddle," Martin explained as he picked up something from his desk and showed it to Neal. "Either do as I say or I will use this paddle on your backside… the decision is yours."
Neal looked from the wicked looking paddle in the headmaster's hands and back to his stern face determining on whether he was serious, and then turned to obey his earlier command to show his stripped backside to the man. He was mortified to do so, but had no choice; unless he wanted to suffer through a paddling on top of what he had received from Peter the night before. It was when Neal started to redress that Martin spoke again.
"I will be watching. I know you were here last night for more than that text book to my brother's class, and when I discover what that was; you will find yourself the recipient of a paddling. Do you understand, boy?"
Neal nodded, and as soon as he had redressed, he hurried from the office and ran to his first class, getting there just in the nick of time.
For the rest of the day Neal nervously looked over his shoulder, sure that he would find the headmaster coming after him, but by the time his art history class began, Neal was starting to calm down. He had only one more class left, and then he could leave and return to his life, sure that the case was on its last legs and would be closed soon. It was with that frame of mind that Neal left class, only to find the headmaster waiting just outside and Neal's stomach fell; especially after he caught sight of the paddle in the man's hand.
The headmaster grabbed Neal by the upper arm to keep him from escaping and together they watched as the last student left on his way to his last class. It was then that Gerald Martin appeared and asked,
"What's going on Anthony?"
"We need to talk, and Neal is here to answer our questions. And if we don't like his answers, I intend on helping him tell the truth," Anthony Martin said as he waved the paddle in his brother's face.
Neal was pulled into the class room and pushed into a nearby chair…. a chair facing a combination TV/DVD player. "I told you about the break-in last night," Anthony told his brother as Neal began to worry. Gerald Martin nodded,
"You said it was only a student retrieving a book," and then understanding flooded his features as he turned to Neal. "You mean it was him that broke in?"
This time the Headmaster nodded. "I couldn't for the life of me figure out why he would break-in to retrieve his art history text book. I mean brother, yours is the most boring class there is… you read verbatim from the text book. I'm surprised that you don't have to go from student to student at the end of each class to wake them so they can go to the next," he continued to explain. Gerald only nodded,
"You know why too, but back to your explanation."
"When I viewed the security DVD I found this boy going to you last classroom, the one that isn't used, and going to a particular book to retrieve and then take pictures of something within. Do you want to know what I found?" asked Anthony Martin.
Gerald Martin nodded his head, "Yes!"
"We will let Neal tell you what was in there and why he took pictures of them," Anthony Martin replied as they turned to Neal for the answer.
"I just found some paper and took pictures so I could read them once I left. It was too dark in the room," replied Neal knowing that it wouldn't satisfy, but was willing to give it a try.
"You went to all of that trouble for some paper you didn't know about, and just wanted to know what they were. Try it again and this time I want the truth," ordered the headmaster.
"I saw Gus going in there after he had told me he was going someplace else, and I was curious as to why he would do that, so I followed him and saw him go to that book and put something in it. It piqued my curiosity and I had to know why," replied Neal.
"So you broke into the school to find out?" asked Anthony Martin in disbelief.
Anthony moved faster than Neal could have imagined as he was pulled from his chair and pushed over Gerald's desk before the paddle exploded against his butt six times hard leaving him gasping with pain.
"You've had time to read the papers; what did they say?" asked the headmaster after pulling Neal up to face him.
"There were only some names on the papers and an address," Neal hurried to reply.
Neal was pushed back over the desk before the paddle bounded six more times into his burning backside. "I find that this method gets me the answers I want. Now who do you work for?" snarled Anthony Martin.
Before Neal could reply there came another voice from the doorway,
"He works for me… Peter Burke, FBI. You are all under arrest for counterfeiting. Jones… Diana, take them away," he added as he rushed to Neal's side.
"Are you okay kid?"
"You couldn't have come a little sooner… my butt is on fire," replied Neal as his hands tried to rub some of the sting away.
"You will live, and thanks to you this counterfeit ring has been busted," replied Peter as he gave him a quick hug. "Come on you can ride with me… I have a fluffy pillow you can sit on for the ride home."
It was later that night that Peter returned tired but in great spirits. After greeting his wife he asked, "Where's the kid?"
"Upstairs in his room lying face down on the bed. Whatever was used on him left his bottom sore and bruised. I couldn't even coach him down with a glass of wine," replied El sadly.
"Well, since he won't come down I guess we'll have to go to him," replied Peter with a smile and on the way up he whispered to his wife what he was about to do. She beamed with approval as they hurried up.
"Can we come in?" Peter asked from the doorway.
"Sure…make yourself at home," replied Neal from the bed. "You will excuse me if I don't get up.?"
"No problem. Neal, El and I have something to ask you. We have talked it over and we only need your agreement to continue?" Peter began.
Neal looked up at the statement… not sure what it meant. "What is it?"
"Neal, El and I want to adopt you, and if you will say yes, we want you to take our last name as yours. I've talked it over with Hughes and he has agreed to go before the commutation board and ask that you be released from your sentence of four years. Because of you, we have solved so many cases that our conviction rate has risen to the high nineties. If they agree, then you can complete your GED and then go on to college and make something of yourself. You are a talented artist who can easily find a job in whatever field you like. The only stipulation Hughes had was that you continue to work as our consultant, when you aren't in school, for the first year. After that it will be up to you if you want to continue.
So what do you say?"
Neal was speechless as he listened to all Peter had to say and then, as it all sunk in, he nodded as tears of happiness began to run down his face. "I would want nothing less than to be your son, even if the other falls through, the fact that you want me would be more than enough," he cried with happiness as Peter and then El pulled him from his bed and into their arms in a celebration hug.
After the tears had slowed down El said, "Come down and see what your dad has brought you," and turned to lead the way. Neal followed with his arms still around Peter. Neal had to laugh as he saw the cake Peter had brought home… a Graduation Cake with his new name on it. "You have graduated, kid. Congratulations," said Peter as he led him to a chair filled with pillows, "now enjoy your diploma, you definitely deserved it."
Epilogue: The commutation hearing went favorably for young Neal Caffrey and his sentence was commuted two days before the Burkes and he went before a judge to change his name to Neal Caffrey Burke, legal son of Elizabeth and Peter Burke.
Neal is studying hard to get his GED so he can enter the freshmen fall class of 2012 at the college of his choice.